His fatalistic resignation somewhat moved me. He was inwardly convinced that he was going to his death. But I appreciated his sparing a little of his bare ten minutes to give me a parting visit. I also thank him for remembering me as he had promised. Shortly after he had gone the gaoler came to my cell with a sack of fresh straw to serve as a mattress. The young officer had paid him to extend me this slight privilege. To me it was like a Heaven-sent blessing, because it enabled me to seek a little repose without subjecting my bleeding hips to further damage.
During the following day, Wednesday, I was enabled to snatch a peep of the corridor without, owing to the gaoler paying me a visit in response to my summons. To my utter astonishment, looking across the corridor, I saw the mysterious prisoner with whom I had been talking by aid of the mute alphabet, lounging at the door of his open cell smoking a cigar. This discovery startled me, and I decided to be more than ever on my guard. To my mind, which was becoming distracted, everyone appeared to be spying upon my actions. The mysterious prisoner looked across the corridor and saw me. Instantly his fingers commenced to move rapidly. I was talking to the gaoler, but was looking beyond him at the prisoner opposite, greedily taking in the signs. I almost jumped as I read off the letters. “Be alert! Something is going to happen!”
MY SECRET MIDNIGHT TRIAL
It was Wednesday evening. I should judge the hour was about eight, although to me it appeared to be nearer midnight. I was lying upon my planks thinking and wondering what the end of it would be. My head was whirling with giddiness from the eternal pacing, and from the wound which I had received, while I was faint from hunger, having eaten nothing since the lunch on the train on Monday, save for the two small rolls upon Wesel station. I had not refused the prison fare from feelings of obstinacy, but simply because my stomach revolted at it. The untouched basins were still standing beside me in a row, the one which had been served first now commencing to emit distinct signs of its staleness.
The door opened, but I ignored it. In fact I was in a semi-comatose condition.
“Rouse! Get up!” growled the head gaoler.
I struggled to a sitting posture and looked up. Standing beside me was a military officer. I could not repress a start. But the absence of arrogance somewhat reassured me, and I struggled to my feet.
“Herr Mahoney,” he commenced, “a serious view has been taken of your case. However, as you have money the authorities are prepared to give you every chance to prove your innocence. You can have counsel if you choose. I can arrange it at once!”
I reflected for a moment. The crisis had been reached at last, and the moment for which I had been longing for bracing myself up to meet the supreme ordeal had arrived. I decided to maintain a stiff upper lip. Yet, in all fairness I must admit that the authorities were treating me justly. Here was I, an absolute stranger in their country, ignorant of the language beyond a few colloquialisms, and in the most dangerous situation in which a man could possibly find himself.